Lack of sleep could be trouble for CTE students.


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STUDENTS find themselves in school environments using equipment and

tools that could cause injury if mishandled. It is imperative that these

students be wide awake and alert when operating these tools. But many

adolescents are not getting the sleep they need to be refreshed and

alert. Researchers have found that adolescents and even those in their

early 20s need nine to 10 hours of sleep a night to feel refreshed. The

National Sleep Foundation (NSF) found that 75 percent of teenagers were

not getting the recommended 9 to 10 hours of sleep on school nights and

high school seniors averaged only 6.9 hours of sleep. In the Liberty

Mutual/SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) study, teens had an

average of 7.2 hours of sleep on school nights; between 15 percent and

30 percent of all children may have a sleep disturbance during

childhood; and as much as 33 to 75 percent of all adolescents have sleep


Sleep restores brain functions that affect metabolism, alertness,

memory and regulates hormones. Not getting enough sleep can lead to

impaired hand-eye coordination, reaction time, vision, awareness of

surroundings, judgment, impulse control, and can cause brief mental

lapses called micro-sleeps, which impede concentration and retention.

This condition is particularly dangerous for CTE students who use tools

and equipment.

Other effects of sleep deprivation include tardiness, falling

asleep in class, lethargy, moodiness, irritability, anxiety, aches,

depression, anger, hyperactivity, behavioral problems, increased

suicidal ideation and attempts, and drug and alcohol abuse. Harvard

University found that sleep deprivation has been linked to decreased

immunity functions, which may increase susceptibility to illness. A

report from the Archives of Disease in Childhood from the United

Kingdom, found that lack of sleep could affect a person’s metabolic

balance, which may increase the chances of obesity, diabetes and

cardiovascular disease.

Academic problems are also associated with sleep deprivation. Tired

students have a hard time paying attention. If they do manage to pay

attention in class, they may forget what they learned because memory is

partially formed during sleep. Researchers Mary A. Carskadon and A.R.

Wolfson studied 3,120 Rhode Island children. They found that students

who were struggling or failing in school got less sleep than those who

were earning As and Bs. Carskadon also found that the more irregular the

bedtime hour, the lower the student’s grades. A 2001 study found

that college students who slept more than nine hours a night had higher

grade-point averages than those sleeping less than six hours (3.2 GPA

vs. 2.7). Sleep deprivation also makes it difficult for students to

start and stick with tasks that involve long-term or abstract goals.


Why the Sleep Deprivation?

One reason is biological. When a child enters puberty, the body

goes through changes that make it harder to go to sleep early and wake

up early. When growth hormones kick in during adolescence, a young

person’s circadian rhythm changes. According to Kyla Wahlstrom,

associate director at the University of Minnesota’s Center for

Applied Research and Educational Improvement, children between the ages

of 13 and 19 secrete the sleep hormone melatonin between the hours of

11:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. As the child ages, melatonin is secreted later

and later in the evening. The center notes that it is unnatural to

expect teenagers to be alert at 7:30 a.m. Another factor in teenagers

staying up late is that the rate at which sleepiness builds up during

the day decreases during adolescence.

The other major reason teenagers are sleep deprived is lifestyle.

Teenagers today arc overextended. They are involved in too many

activities that extend late into the evening and then they are required

by schools to be up early in the morning to be in class as early as 7:00

a.m. For example, teenagers who work more than 20 hours a week after

school have more symptoms of daytime sleepiness than those who

don’t work. Another contributing factor in teens not getting enough

sleep involves parents. Only one in 20 high school students have parents

who set a bedtime for their children, according to a 2005 study. (1)

Most teenagers watch TV, use their cell phone, text message, use their

computer, or do homework in their bedroom right up to the time they

crash. This is not the ideal way to have a restful sleep. Those students

with a set time to go to sleep tend to be better rested and do better in


Action Plans: What Students Can Do

Sleep experts note that bedtime etiquette is important to ensure

quality sleep. Among the recommendations:

1. Don’t consume caffeine hours before bedtime.

2. Have quiet time before bedtime. Read a book, listen to quiet

soothing music, or meditate.

3. Remove the TV, cell phone, computer and video games from the


4. Improve time management skills so student is not doing last

minute school-work late at night.

5. Don’t stay up later on weekends and try to use binge

sleeping to catch up.

What Parents can do

1. Set the child’s bedtime so that he or she gets at least 8.5

hours of sleep.

2. Try to limit late night hours.

What Some Schools are Doing

Some schools have started later to allow teens to get more sleep.

These schools are starting after 8:00 a.m., although the NSF recommends

9:00 a.m. as the ideal start time. In 1996, the school district in

Edina, Minnesota, changed its high school start time to 8:30 a.m. The

district noticed that students are more engaged and alert in their

first-period classes as a result of the change. The district saw grades

go up as a result of a later start time. The Minneapolis school district

followed suit in 1997. Teachers report students are less likely to fall

asleep in morning classes, with some students reporting they get more

sleep and are more likely to eat breakfast. Attendance and graduation

rates in schools have gone up while tardiness has gone down.

CTE students who work with dangerous equipment should be well

rested. They should also be made aware of the effects of sleep

deprivation and how it can impact their class/lab activities. Schools,

parents and students will need to work together to ensure students are

well rested and alert.


(1) Sanghavi, D. (2005). Teens Need Help to Form Better Sleep

Habits., Boston Globe, Boston MA.: Jun 21, 2005. C 1.

Gary Scarpello, Ph.D., is a math and social studies instructor at

North Montco Technical Career Center in Lansdale, Pennsylvania. He can

be contacted at


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